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mastery and creativity

THE TROUBLE WITH PIVOTS

THE TROUBLE WITH PIVOTS

I don’t know.  Maybe I am misunderstanding this new-to-me concept of “business pivots.”

starting-on-the-pivot-line
“Starting On the Pivot Line??” by Pure Geekery via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

WHAT IS A “BUSINESS PIVOT?”

The business pivot was an idea that gained traction after Eric Reis’s book, “THE LEAN STARTUP:  How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Business” hit the entrepreneurial bookshelves in 2011.

Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but the Lean Startup thing seems to start with the premise that it’s a good thing to cobble together a prototype of a half-baked idea that’s “new and different” and offer it up first and fast with the intention of getting the product, service or other offering to Good on the fly.  Hmmm….

Apparently, this methodology is supposed to be a less expensive and more efficient way to gather relevant feedback from potential customers and measure the specific tastes, desires, and purported wants and needs of early-adopter buyers and others who come after as you churn out assorted re-iterations of your product or whatever.

Walking this way, they say, you’ll be all set to tailor your product, service, or business model to meet your customers’ needs and fulfill their wishes better.

The “pivot” is a particular mindset that’s part and parcel of this Lean Startup thing.

You’re supposed to stand at the ready to tweak, twiddle, and change the components and structure of your infant business – the products you sell, how you sell them, the way you communicate with and serve your clients and customers, the way you use your resources, and so on and so forth — in order to capture more and more business.

Really, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  I’m just trying to figure out why it does not resonate with me.

IS IT A DANCE THING?

Maybe my problem with this whole pivot thing comes from my knowing dancers and martial artists who use another sort of pivot step.

That one is modeled in the following YouTube Jazz Dance video “How to Pivot Turn” (published in 2012 by Howcast).  In it, director and dance choreographer Liz Piccoli shows you how to do a pivot step.

(Note that the step Piccoli is showing is labeled as a “beginner jazz dance move.”)

Maybe I’m stuck because I’m having a hard time getting away from using this dance step as a metaphor for the “business pivot.”

It does seem to me that if doing business is a dance, then there’s got to be more to it than just doing the pivot this way and that until you get the walk “right” (according to your audience) even with the added body-English.

Doing the pivot step over and over and over looks like “twirling around.”  To me, it just seems like a good way to get dizzy.

Hmmm….

US CREATIVES DON’T DO IT LIKE THAT…OR DO WE?

Maybe my problem with the thing is the whole engineering-world, feature-creature taste of it all.  Frankly, getting feedback from assorted others as you’re building your vision sounds wrong-headed to me.

both-powered-by-the-breath-of-the-earth
“both powered by the breath of the earth” by byronv2 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Wanna-be Creatives have always been exhorted to “find your own voice.”  Expressing your own self and being “original” is supposed to be the end-all and be-all of the Creative gig.  “Authenticity” and being “genuine” is a basic tenet of Creator-hood, it seems to me.

As a Creative hopeful, you believe that the “meaning” of your work is all bound up in you – how you see and feel things and your own conclusions about why the World is as it is.

Your Job Number One is, basically, figuring out where you stand and why.  F’r real, it is confusing and frustrating work.  It’s all about slog, slog, slog, and wandering around in heavy fog.

Looking for feedback too early in your process is likely to keep you from finding your own voice.  (My own thought on it all is if you’re going to do all that hard work in the first place, what’s the point of speaking with anybody else’s voice?)

As you develop your own voice and your own vision, you’ll be moved to send out “reports” from that place that is unique to you.  This could result in any number of “products” – pictures, sculptures, pots, performances, books, poems, songs, Rube Goldberg-y inventions, whatever.

With them you are trying to reach out to everybody else, using whatever skillful means you’ve developed, to produce a body of work that allows others to see the world as you do.  Your purpose in all of that is to get them to buy into that vision you’re sharing.

(The deal is, if enough of these folks buy something you’ve made, you can keep on doing what you do.)

A FEEDBACK SOURCE

Of course, none of this necessarily means that your vision or your work will mobilize and move the world to do anything other than what it is already doing.

That’s when feedback comes in handy.  Asking for feedback from other folks and being open to suggestions can help you in a lot of different ways.

  • Maybe you’ll find venues to showcase your work because of a thing someone or other points out to you.
  • Maybe you’ll try different ways and means to refine how well your message connects with and influences other people, winning their support for your work.
  • Maybe you’ll find soulmates and partners in surprising places who help you expand your horizons.  You might even find your tribe.

tim-devlin-frontside-pivot
“tim devlin frontside pivot” by andrew hutchison via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Some things will work.  Others will not.  You’ll keep doing the things that work and maybe you’ll try other new things as well to get your work into the hands of your supporters.

Instead of pivoting willy-nilly, you’ll use the vision you’ve developed and ride herd on it as you test and try out other people’s suggestions that help it evolve.  You’ll use your vision to make sure that everything you do – your work and the marketing of it — aligns with the direction you are wanting to go.

That’s a good thing, don’t you think?  I do.

PIVOTS AS THE WAY BACK

I do think, however, that sometimes you as a Creative may find the pivot is useful for getting back to the vision and voice you’ve already developed.  When you have gone off-course, it may be the only way to get back to moving in the direction you want to go.

My own favorite example of a pivot of that kind is the one made by a long-distance solo sailing legend, Bernard Moitessier (1925 – 1994).   He was inducted into the Single-Handed Sailors’ Hall of Fame in 1988 for his life achievements, but he is most famous for not finishing a race.

In 1969, the British Sunday Times sponsored the first international Golden Globe yacht race.   The fastest single-hander sailor to complete a non-stop circumnavigation of the world stood to win £5,000 (the equivalent of £82,500 nowadays).

The Golden Globe trophy, also sponsored by the Sunday Times, would be awarded to the first solo circumnavigator to do the round-the-world voyage.

Notoriety, adulation, and fame was expected to follow in the wake of both of these awards.  Book deals, speaking engagements, endorsements, sponsorships and the rest were bound to follow.

Moitessier, who was already a sailing legend as well as a noted author, had planned his own world-circling voyage on his custom-built 39-foot steel ketch “Joshua” before the race was organized.

The timing of his around-the-world trip coincided with the newspaper-sponsored race which was apparently structured to automatically include all of the sailors who were attempting to sail single-handed around the world that year.

The sponsors of the race prevailed on Moitessier to participate in the race and he reluctantly agreed even though he made it clear that he felt that doing so was somehow compromising what he considered his special relationship with the sea.

Moitessier was on the last leg of his circumnavigating journey and many say he would have won the Golden Globe race as both first and fastest if he had finished his trip.  Instead, he changed his vessel’s course and continued sailing eastward.

He ended up completing a one-and-a-half circumnavigation of the world which took him around Cape Horn (again) and on to Tahiti.

It took him 301 days to complete the voyage.  In doing so, he broke the world record for the most miles sailed solo non-stop.

Meanwhile, another legendary yachtsman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, became the first winner of the Golden Globe race, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer.   Sir Robin’s voyage took  a “stately” 312 days.

Moitessier wrote a note to the London Sunday Times when he turned away from winning the race.  He delivered the note by slingshot onto a passing ship.

In the note he said, “My intention is to continue the voyage, still nonstop, toward the Pacific Islands….I am continuing nonstop because I am happy at sea, and perhaps because I want to save my soul.”

His book, THE LONG WAY, chronicled his 301-day voyage.  It sold very well.

This YouTube video, uploaded in 2011 by GMGB68, features images taken by Moitessier himself during his nonstop solo voyage around the world.

Here’s a poem:


CIRCLES

I figured out something:

I move in circles like the sun because

I want to see everything there is to see.

Like a hunter in territory unfamiliar,

I move slowly, with caution,

Stopping, stooping, seeing the tracks

Of the wild beasts and other things,

Finding the paths they walk,

Following to where they lead me.

I glide softly through the bushes,

Stepping quietly, walking lightly.

 

I stop and listen to the sounds around me.

Let them touch me, let them flow.

My breath is deep; it fills my belly.

Calm I am, a part of the One.

I move with no thought, no expectations.

What am I stalking?

I don’t know.

There is something waiting for me

Out there, somewhere,

When I have traveled full circle,

Perhaps I shall see what it is.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Sunflower” by Mikael Hvidtfeldt Christen via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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DO-BE, DO-BE, DO

DO-BE, DO-BE, DO

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  You’re busy, I’m busy, everybody’s busy.  In fact, it seems like everybody’s drowning in busy, busy, busy.

We bounce around doing this, handling that, rushing through our days, knocking off all of our bullets on that mile-long to-do list, steam-rolling through the obstacles, knocking off the challenges and so on and so forth.  Rolling, rolling, rolling ‘til we drop.

But, it’s good, right?  Yup, yup, yup!

Or…is it?

THE NEW DEFAULT

In this TEDxFurmanU talk, “The Busy Identity,” published in 2016, the presenter is Lexie Harvey, then a sophomore at Furman University.  Lexie tells us we need to take a rest.  We need to remember that we are human beings, she says, not human doings.

It got me thinking, this video.  It does, indeed, seem to be the new default for a lot of people.  It’s become a bit of a pissing contest, actually.  “My busy is bigger than your busy.  But, it’s all good…”  (Cue the big grin.)

That “human-Being vs human-Doing” thing has been around for a long time.  It’s a clever phrase that wanna-be wise guys toss around, looking all holier-than-thou.  Another pissing contest.  (Sigh!)

The thing is, humans are not one or the other.  We’re a bit more organic and a lot more integrated than that.  What we choose to Do affects how we Be and the how we Be often dictates what we choose to Do.

There doesn’t seem to be any way around it.

The very wisest of the wise guys and the smartest of the smart guys all agree:  you are (or you become) how you walk in the world.  As Henry David Thoreau pointed out, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

This irreverent and very silly BuzzFeed Video was published on YouTube in August, 2015.  It does seem to capture the essence of busy quite nicely:

The video was put together by the BuzzFeed Motion Picture video team.  As you probably know already, these guys are the awesome crew that puts together the daily posts on the BFMP’s flagship channel.

MAYBE “BUSY” IS THE NEW “LAZY”?

Sometimes I think the reason we have gotten so awfully good at doing ‘til we drop is mostly because busy is easy.

That’s right.  Think about it.

When your days are filled to the overflowing with that incredible To-Do List you’ve constructed that is way longer and much more varied than the ones any other two people you know are toting around, who has time or energy to even think about what it is you’re actually doing or who you are actually being?

The Real is, it’s not like our one True Self is sitting in some dark recess of our minds waiting to be “discovered.”

Getting still and doing interior explorations is a very useful and ultimately beneficial set of skills for all kinds of reasons, but reports from the guys who actually did that are sort of nebulous and unclear.

Most of them seem to end up advocating dumping Self in favor of connecting to the Oneness of it all or something like that.

If that’s what you want to do, that’s great, but if you’re a bit more concerned with trying to get to your own meaning and mana your own way, it might not be satisfactory for you.

The really cool thing about being human is that we can be lots and lots of different selves.

The best thing about that is if we’re not satisfied with the Self we happen to be doing at any given time, we can actually choose to grow into some other Self we like better.

male-b&w
“Male B&W” by Nuuna Nitely via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

There’s only one problem.  Growing and changing and transforming ourselves takes time.

As fitness guru Jillian Michaels points out, “Transformation is not five minutes from now, it’s a present activity.  In this moment you can make a different choice, and it’s these small choices and successes that build up over time to help cultivate a healthy self-image and self-esteem.”

beauty-of-time
“Beauty of Time” by Hartwig HKD via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Michaels is right.  It takes time to build a new body.  Every wise guy there ever was all say it takes time to build a new self.  It very often takes a lot of hard choices, all made one at a time.

Our “busy” may be just a convoluted, very tiring way to avoid making the changes we need to get to the life of meaning and mana we want.

GETTING TO NOT-BUSY

So what does it take to get to not-busy?

One of the simplest and best ways to get free from busy is a thing ordinary folks can understand and do quite handily.  It’s called “selectivity.”  Its other name is “making choices.”

It’s an old and simple truth:  Time is the ultimate resource.  Time is your life.  In fact, time is all that life is.

The price tag for whatever activity you are doing is time.  That means that for each thing you do, you are paying for it with your life.

time-goes
“Time Goes” by giulia gasparro via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The question then becomes:  Is it worth it?

I listened once to a conversation among a group of old friends – unconventional outliers all – as they shared story after story of their many and varied adventures.  Laughter and heartful moments piled up and we were all feeling well-pleased with each other.

Then one guy, in a pensive moment, said, “You know what I’d like?  I’d like to buy back all the time I was paid to work for someone else.  I wonder what I would have done with all that time.”

Another put in that he’d buy back the time he had wasted on frivolous distractions that have little meaning for him now.

A third said she would take back the years she had spent following a path someone else had set for her.

The evening ended with an explosion of laughter when another said, “But, guys, look at where we are now!  Hasn’t it been a great life?  If I ever get the chance, I know I’d do it all again!”

And I had to think, as I looked at this madcap crew of adventurers and makers and smarty-pants oddballs and quirky spirits, that every one of them had grown into a marvelous human of one sort or another by choosing again and again to follow their own hearts.

bliss-with-a-sunshine-eclipse-heart
“bliss with a sunshine eclipse heart: marco cochrane’s work, treasure island (2014)” by torbakhopper via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

DE-CLUTTERING YOUR TIME

Getting free of meaningless “busy” means cutting down and weeding out the extraneous stuff in order to focus time and energy on the people we love and the things we want to do.  Actually, it’s an advanced level of de-cluttering.

Instead of organizing your desk, your room, your house and the rest of your environment, using selectivity you can shovel all the detritus out of your time and your life-doings.  (Coincidentally all the other stuff tends to get re-organized too.)

shovel
“Shovel” by Tom Rydquist via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
All selectivity requires is noticing.  Take a look at what you are doing during your day.  (You may even want to start one more list.)

When you’ve got some breathing space, take a look at your list and choose one activity.  Think about it.  Then start asking yourself some questions.

The two most important ones are these:

  • What do you give to this thing you’re doing?
  • What does it give back?

Other things that might be worth asking are:

  • How does this activity feed you?
  • Does it help?
  • Is it inspiring?

Or:..

  • Does it stoke your fears?
  • Does it bring you down, distorting your worldview or negatively impacting your disposition?

Asking these questions, especially about the things that have become habits or routines, and revisiting the things you sort of take for granted, can help you see what your life is made of.

If you’re satisfied with the results that a particular activity brings into your life then, by all means, keep on doing it.  If not, maybe you want to send it to the recycling bin.

Sometimes as you remove one activity, you’ll notice that a whole chunk of related activities end up in the recycling bin as well.  That’s a bonus.

After a while of doing this you’ll notice that you’re starting to breathe easier.  You’ve got more time to do the things you’ve decided to keep.  Life gets more interesting and more fun.  You can enjoy yourself and savor the life you’ve built.

the-world-around-me
“The World Around Me” by Akhilesh Ravishankar [CC BY-ND 3.0 Unported]
Give it a shot.  What do you want to lose?

Here’s a poem:


DO-BE, DO-BE, DO

There’s a thing going ’round these days;

The Do-Bug is its name.

If you don’t watch out, it’ll get you too

And you’ll never be the same.

 

Your eyes get red from the strain

And tics make your face twitch.

Your ears are blocked by a roaring

And you start acting like a witch.

 

Your body moves in fits and starts

Your stomach will lurch and roll,

And your heart will shrink to a peanut

As it drains your innermost soul.

 

Your hands reach out like claws

That hold on to things real tight,

And your legs can’t keep still…

You want to run out of sight.

 

You hurry-scurry in a flurry,

Rushing here and there,

And you never stop to ask yourself

The how, the why, the where.

 

It attacks all your nerve endings.

It festers in your brain.

And as it progresses,

You frequently go insane.

 

Do this!  Do that!  Do the other!

Do it for this cause or for that!

Do it now or lose forever!

Why’d you do it, you dirty rat?

 

The Do-Bug latches onto you

And shakes your fundament,

Makes you think you’ll get to Heaven

And it’ll use you until you’re spent.

 

The cure is very simple.

There’s no need for pills or booze.

Just stop whatever you’re doing,

Let be, and take a snooze.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Hurry” by Christer via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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ONE ARTISAN VILLAGE

ONE ARTISAN VILLAGE

I think that in every Maker’s heart of hearts, there is a dream of being surrounded by others like them who live their lives working and dancing to their own heartsong, trying to do their own best  work and cheering each other on to greater effort.

We dream of a place that supports us in our journey while letting us find our own way to our own best life.

AN ARTISAN DREAM

One of the oldest established “artisan communities” in America is the village of Sugar Loaf, which is a small hamlet roughly six miles long and five miles wide, in the town of Chester in New York’s Orange County.  It’s been around since the 18th century.

The village was originally a waypoint along the King’s Highway, providing supplies and horses for the travelers along that road.  It was a busy place and went through many changes as the world moved through and then past it.

Back then it was likely that every tradesperson was some sort of artisan, if the definition of “artisan” is someone who makes things by hand.  (There wasn’t any other way to make useful things.)

Sometime around the middle of the last century, the village had become little more than a forgotten bit of the landscape between crowded metropolises.  Transportation routes had changed and it was no longer a hub and hive of activity.

There gathered a group of artists and artisans who took up residence in Sugar Loaf and began doing their work in the old falling-down buildings and barns that had endured for a couple of hundred years. These Makers found a place with room enough and time enough to do the work they loved.

In the course of things, a core group of these full-time working craftspeople opened up their independent artist’s studios to the public, selling the works of their hands to support lives they found meaningful.

prophecy-untold
Prophecy Untold” by Henry M. Diaz via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
For an interesting history of the early days of the Sugar Loaf artisan community as well as some of the trials and tribulations as the community went through assorted economic and other changes, click on the button below to check out an old Sugar Loaf Guild site by one of the leaders among these early artisan-residents, Bob Fugett.

(I have to warn you:  Bob is a bit cantankerous.)

click-here

As Fugett points out, some of the early artisans continued to develop their skills in their chosen work to a high level.

Over the years other Makers joined in as the earliest of these creative people and their neighbors made a community that was centered around producing locally made, one-of-a-kind, high quality creative work.

The people who appreciated the quality of the work they produced came in droves from all over the world.

THE CHANGES DO KEEP ON COMING

But, the Way of the Creative is never an easy road.  In his musings on his website, Fugett mourns the lost shape of the community he helped to build.

sugar-loaf-sign
“Sugar Loaf Sign” by Kafziel Complaint Department via Wikimedia.org [CC BY-SA 3.0]
In one of the riffs on his site, Fugett quotes James Lynch, the founder of Fforest Camp, an eco-living retreat in West Wales:  “It’s my experience that artist communities are almost always camps because they appropriate space that nobody else wants (at the time), but by virtue of a creative progressive view of neighborhoods they create a demand from others that ultimately marginalizes them, so they are forever transient.”

It’s a pithy commentary on what happens after the Makers have made Beauty in some abandoned place, which then becomes a “destination,” and then gets made over into something else as other folks move in.

This YouTube video, “Artists and Artisans,” was published in 2017 by Sarah J. Burns.  It’s a mini-documentary featuring interviews with some of the artisans currently living in the village and focuses on how their livelihoods changed with the recession.  It also offers a glimpse of the village itself.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The future is never certain, but the village continues anyway and it will grow into some new shape that better reflects the Makers who now live and work there in these very different times.

One of Bob’s salty comments that is spot-on nevertheless is this:  Talent is bullshit; work is the thing, and of course it is all for naught, always has been, always will be, but that has nothing to do with the doing of it.

Here’s a poem:


CHANGE

That things will change is a given

There is no argument.

Established constructs will be riven

And much will fade of past efforts spent.

 

Still and yet and ever more

The world keeps turning in its place.

Still and yet, there will be joy,

There will be rainbows and always grace.

 

Change comes, change goes

And so do you and I.

The only things we get to keep

Are the ways we walk and fly….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “The Work Never Matches the Dream….” By Kendra via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a note or comment below and share your thoughts.

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JOURNALIZE YOUR LIFE

JOURNALIZE YOUR LIFE

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): an understanding that “creativity” is not a talent; it is a way of operating. [The coolest thing is anybody can do it.]

I guess it’s a cliché now.  One way to enhance your creativity, they tell us, is to keep a journal.  Snuggle up with your thoughts and illuminate your feelings, write down your dreams and hunches, collect quotes from the famous and the notorious.

Spend time in your own head.  Be your own psychotherapist.  Be your own guru.  At the very least, you can be your own pen-pal.

COMMONPLACE BOOKS

Journalizing your life is part of a long, long tradition.  In Enlightenment-era Europe, during the “Age of Reason” (which most people say runs from around 1685 to 1815), it was all the rage.

The smarty pants and wise guys then all kept what they called “commonplace books.”  These were personalized encyclopedias of quotes as well as thoughts and aspirations and other bits of their own writings that scholars, amateur scientists and aspiring men of letters put together.

commonplace book detail
“Commonplace book detail” by vlasta2 via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Some folks transcribed whole gobs of books they found interesting in their commonplace books.  (One guy cobbled together parts of the Bible that made sense to him, leaving out the parts that didn’t.  This was not well-received in some circles.)

One of the leading lights of the Enlightenment movement was John Locke.  He was a systems guy and from an early age he was busy devising new systems and new ways of looking at things.

Locke developed a version of the commonplace book in 1652 (during his first year at Oxford) that was a cause for excitement among the geeks and nerds of the day.  Locke put together an elaborate system for indexing his commonplace book’s contents which made it easy for him to find passages and ideas that he wanted to revisit, review, and use.  Others followed his example.

JOURNALING TODAY

Nowadays journals come in all shapes and sizes, fancy and plain.  They’re mostly blank books that you fill in your own self.  Some are peppered with other people’s thoughts, all ready for you to use.  They’ve come to be one of the default gifts you want to give to people who are Makers (or who want to be).

You can write in them and you can turn them into sketchbooks or artsy work notepads and such.  You can even turn them into works of art.

The things are ubiquitous.  Everybody gets one at some point or other.  There are magazines, how-to videos, courses and guidebooks for making your own as well.

If you’re not particularly into deep thinking, if writing is boring for you, or if you are insecure about your art skills, receiving one of those things can precipitate a minor crisis of sorts.  (It becomes one more thing to hide under your bed or tuck behind other stuff on the shelves and ignore.)

For the people who have never been able to “finish” one of those ready-made journals, here’s a You-Tube video about WRECK THIS JOURNAL, a book put together by guerilla-artist, author, and illustrator Keri Smith.  It was published in 2012 by Penguin Books as a promotion for her book of that name.

That book took off and is the first of four volumes in a series.

Over the years, Keri Smith has made an astonishing array of books about creativity and getting your art on.  Her books include bestselling concept books like:

For many years she also maintained a popular website, Wish Jar, that is a beautifully constructed on-line journal of sorts.  It doesn’t seem to be very active these days, but the site is lovely to explore anyway.

THE JOY OF DIGITAL ARCHIVING

And that’s the other thing:  Computers can be turned into journaling tools, if that’s your bent.   You, too, can put together a digital archive.

You can fill it with all kinds of stuff:  quotes, research on specific projects, passages transcribed from articles and books, web page clippings, and random discoveries, hunches and intuitions of your own.

Some folks call clunkier, more workaday versions of these things “swipe files.”  (That term gets my back up.  It sounds like an invitation to thievery or something.)

I prefer to think of the things as a stewpot simmering away over a bunson burner or a hot plate. (Or maybe it’s a cute personal crockpot, if you’re not into minimalism.)  You can get some really good writing or art-making “stock” out of that stuff…even from the yawn-inducing junk.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am a writer and a poet.  For me thoughts and ideas are building blocks and ingredients that can be cooked together in a variety of ways.  The thoughts you add to your archive (whether digital or paper) can add savor and flavor to your own efforts at writing or art.

Even if you fish out all the bits of meat and vegetables in a long-cooking stew, the broth holds the flavor anyhow.

Here’s a poem:


ON READING OLD JOURNALS

So…

This is what they’re for:

I wander through the pages,

Poring over the

Old maps I have drawn of

The counties of my mind.

 

I stop here and there,

Remembering the stances

I have tried that now

Lie crumpled like improbable fashion

Statements that didn’t quite work.

That mix that didn’t match…

 

Ooh!  This one’s embarrassing!

Old revelations sparkle

In the pile of dither

And the tarnished dross of

Plated costume-jewelry thoughts.

 

I see the spirals that I dance,

Around, around, around

And I have to laugh at all

The silly detours and digressions

That lead me straight back to

The core that stands there still,

Waiting….

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Reflections of Maui” by Mark Faviell via Flickr [CC BY-ND-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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ON THE ROAD TO MEANING

ON THE ROAD TO MEANING

In 2001, a group of  friends graduated from college and set out on a cross-country road trip to interview people who lived “lives centered around what was meaningful for them.”

The boys acquired an RV, and wandered around countryside filming a documentary about their trip in which they brazenly approached all sorts of people who were doing what looked like interesting things and asked them a lot of personal questions about life-issues like, “How do you know that this thing you do is right for you?” and “What was your worst mistake?” and  “What advice do you have for a lost puppy like me?”

The documentary the friends made of their journey was expanded into a series on PBS. They wrote a book about the first road trip.

This first book was followed by other books, by other projects all designed to help other people get the kind of insights the young men acquired on their own original road trip.

Eventually they and the team they assembled along the way launched a nonprofit called “Roadtrip Nation.”  The goal of this nonprofit is to help other young people who need advice for shaping their own careers into something fulfilling, for living a life doing what matters most to them.

In the following YouTube video, “Road Trip Nation:  The RT Nation Story,” the three friends, Mike Marriner, Nathan Gebhard and Brian McAllister, tell the story of their continuing journey.

They point out that going around the country asking people they encountered questions about how they ended up living lives that had meaning and mana helped each of them find their own truths, their own self-definitions, and their own kind of good life.

Asking questions and listening to the answers from people who had taken their own paths was profoundly useful to them.  It helped them answer that age-old question, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

What started as a madcap adventure-cum-vision quest has spawned a whole movement of young people who are looking for their own answers to this most important question.

Besides an assortment of books, Roadtrip Nation maintains an extensive on-line video library of the interviews they conducted on their PBS series.

If you click on the “watch” link you can browse the PBS series by season.  Within each season you can browse each episode by interview subject.  Among those interviewed are everything from CEOs of major corporations to everyday workers in all kinds of industries and working situations who love what they do.

 Besides all of this, the Nation has put together a guide-book of sorts called ROADMAP: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do With Your Life.  It’s a starter-kit for seekers looking for the meaning and mana in their own lives.

Check it out.  (It’s filled with exercises and ideas that  work for serious questers  of any age.)

And here’s a poem:


WILL YOU HEAR ME?

Understand something, please:

I do not aspire to be that tree

That falls in the woods and no one hears.

I refuse to be one of a line of trees in the forest

Blown down by a big kona wind,

Spilling across the landscape like fallen matchsticks.

 

I want to be heard,

To know my voice will rise up and grab at ears,

That my words will shake and stoke hearts that burn.

I want my voice to join those other voices in the wind,

That roar like a raging river,

That gently sigh like a baby sleeping.

 

Will you hear me?


Header picture credit:  “Traffic Trails” by Barry Davis via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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THAW THE FREEZE

THAW THE FREEZE

It’s famous…the Fight or Flight reaction dichotomy that happens  every time the adrenaline starts pumping through your system as you’re facing yet another new crisis or unfamiliar situation.

It’s a human thing.  I mean, look at us:  Bad eyes, really limited smelling ability, can’t hear well, small teeth, no claws, weak muscles, can’t run, bad at climbing, and on and on.  In a world of predators, we tend to be a lot wary.  We’ve got good reasons.

Depending on your own propensities, you may want to believe that you’ll stand firm and fight your way through whatever obstacles and challenges you must.

Courage and perseverance and never say die…all the full-blown, pump-’em-up motivational stuff plays in your mind as you keep on trucking on.  Forward, forward, always forward.  A valuable and viable option.

Or maybe you want to believe that you will be wily and smart enough to pull a dig and peel on outa there when the odds are overwhelmingly against you.

Retreat and you’ll live to fight another day.  You’ll be able to choose your battleground and marshal your resources more effectively.  Fall back, regroup, and try again.  Another valuable and viable option.

AND THEN THERE’S THE FREEZE

Then there’s the third reaction that doesn’t get quite as much show-time.  It’s called the Freeze.  Think deer in the middle of the road, caught in the headlights of an oncoming sixteen-wheeler.  Few people want to emulate the soon-to-be street pizza, but very often they do.

deer-in-the-headlights
“Deer In the Headlights” by Shena Tschofen via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The Freeze arises from the fact that we think…a lot.  It’s another very human trait — the one, in fact, that has put us at the top of the food chain and made our species the biggest, baddest predators of all.

THE FREEZE HAS A FANCY NAME

The Freeze is such a prevalent behavior pattern that the smarty-pants scientists even have a name for its extreme form — “tropophobia.”  It’s a genuine, actual condition that can be extremely debilitating and cause all kinds of problems for you.

“Tropophobia,” it says here, is “the fear of moving or making changes.”  People who suffer from it don’t handle surprises well.  They suck at dancing with change.  Even minor changes can cause a complete breakdown.

Tropophobia can be triggered by things like moving to another country, state, city, or even another house in the same neighborhood.  Changing schools or jobs are major obstacles.  Relationships that are changing are excruciating for these folks.

Getting a different vehicle, changing doctors or insurance companies, having new neighbors move in next door, making small changes in set routines, changing your mind or entertaining a new idea….anything that’s different, anything “new and improved” can throw you into a tailspin when the Freeze is your default response.

This is not good.  It’s hard to do your dance when your head’s whirling around and around and you’re feeling dizzy and nauseous.

hurricane-season
“Hurricane Season” by jamelah e. via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

ANATOMY OF THE FREEZE

To some extent, every one of us humans can get overwhelmed by changes that keep coming and coming.  Most of us develop work-arounds and strategies for it that allow us to keep on moving through the changes in outward circumstances or changes in our own feelings and internal landscapes.  Some of us just can’t.

One of the most common traits of people who are affected badly by the Freeze is extreme stubbornness.  Their “Yes-Book” is very small; their “No-Book,” very large.  Things are supposed to happen a certain way and no other way is going to work.  Rigidity is their middle name.

The general anxiety that happens when faced by any change gets blown up into major crisis proportions.  If the anxiety level gets too high a panic attack may set in.

Your heart beats faster and faster.  You have difficulty breathing.  Weakness, fainting, dizziness, tingling or numbness are common occurrences.  You start sweating a lot and may experience chest pains.  Extreme terror grabs you and you spin out.  ACK!

One cause for the condition that stands above the rest, according to the smart guys, is trauma.  Something happened to the sufferer that convinced them that moving made them a target somehow.

Any kind of movement that calls attention to their presence feels dangerous.  For them, it feels better to hide out in the bushes or behind masks rather than to risk an attack that might cause some kind of harm or suffering.

Just the possibility of future suffering or the repeat of suffering that previously occurred gets magnified so badly that they become unsettled and very wobbly.  Who wants to move when the ground under your feet is rocking and rolling and cracks are opening up in front of you?

cracked-earth
“Cracked Earth” by Gerry Thomasen via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
An extreme need for consistency makes people who suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder prone to getting driven into a frenzy by any change in daily routines.

Others may just be terrified for no real reason at all.  You don’t need a reason to be scared.  Sometimes you just are.

Hey…let’s face it.  Despite our current status as top dog of the world as we know it, humans are basically descended from a long line of brainy runners and cringing scaredy-cats.

The ones who were brave (and unlucky) didn’t survive long enough to HAVE descendants.  Freeze-genes are part of our DNA.

We honor the fearless ones mostly because the majority of us know that inside our own selves there is a terrified heart prone to a heck of a lot of trembling and moaning.

hikers-at-pilot-rock
“Hikers at Pilot Rock” by Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington [CC BY-2.0]

SO, HOW DO WE DEAL?

Therapy is one solution touted by the smart guys.  Cognitive-behavior therapy can be helpful.  This type of therapy changes the way you react to a feared stimulus by helping you sort through the options available to you when you are confronted with whatever scares you.

Often, by using these techniques, you can even get some insights into what causes you to freeze up like that.  You use your mind to calm your mind by developing routines and workarounds that help you cope with some feared change or other.

Things like shock or exposure therapy have also been used to treat tropophobia as well, but that just sounds like a refined sort of torture.  (The kid’s scared of the water?  Easy solution:  throw him into the middle of a deep pond.  Watch him drown.  End of problem.)

Medication’s another solution.  Specially designed anxiety medication and/or anti-depressants can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.  They can also help with the physical symptoms of panic attacks like difficulty in breathing.

However, the side-effects of the drugs can be gnarly and, for real, popping a pill every time you get scared just shoves the fear under the rug for a while.  You’re going to keep tripping over it…again and again and again.

Relaxation techniques, including the beginning stages of meditation and yoga, listening to music and various breathing exercises have been found to be very effective at alleviating anxiety and other symptoms.  Many people choose these as quick and easy methods for coping with various situations as well.

The problem with all of these methods, practices and techniques is that they are coping devices.  When you use them, you relieve and mitigate the assorted symptoms of the problem, but you are still stuck with the basic problem, which is your fear.

It sits there, a raging stream that cuts across your path and the dream you’re chasing is on the other side of the stream.  Treading water in the middle of the stream just doesn’t get you to the other side.

raging-river
“Raging River” by Szoki Adams via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

WHAT ELSE?

Marketing maven Seth Godin had an interesting take on this whole issue in his book, POKE THE BOX.    He points out that things are always moving and flowing.  He calls that flow “flux” and says that engineers can measure the flux of heat or molecular change by measuring movement.

One example he uses is putting an ice cube in a cup of hot tea.  The heat moves from the water into the ice.  The ice melts.  That’s flux.  That’s movement.

iced-tea
“Iced Tea” by EmberEyes via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The problem is that people often confuse the natural flux and movement of the evolving world around us with risk, and, for real, “risk” is just a state of mind.

The feeling of “risk” is the result when we put some value on a particular outcome.  We want that outcome very badly.  If we don’t get to that particular outcome then we feel we have lost something somehow.

Risk always involves winning and losing.  And risk always brings with it the possibility of failure.  Chances are, the more risks you take the more likely it will be that you will fail at some point.

If you’ve been trained to avoid failure, Godin says, you will be especially averse to taking risks.  Your wonderfully agile mind starts in, showing you all the ways this move or that move could lead to failure.  Not only that, the people around you, who probably don’t like change any more than you do, are likely to chime in as well.

You start getting anxious.  You’re going to lose, Lose,LOSE…oh, no!  So you don’t move.

Anxiety, according to Godin, is “experiencing failure in advance.”  Your mind is doing a ju-jitsu number on you, throwing you for a loop.

Godin likens the reactions of the risk-averse to acting like a rock in the middle of a flowing river.  He says, “People act as though flux – the movement of people or ideas or anything else that’s unpredictable – exposes us to risk and exposes us to failure.  The fearful try to avoid collisions so they avoid movement….”

He tells us, “Like a rock in a flowing river, you might be standing still, but given the movement around you, collisions are inevitable.”

He points out that a log floating down that same river is in the flow of movement and change, but that log is likely to experience a heck of a lot more calm around it when compared to that rock.  Moving with the flow it doesn’t get banged up so much by the floating debris and it can land in a pretty cool place eventually.

its-too-cold-to-jump-in
“It’s Too Cold To Jump In” by Jamie McCaffrey via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Godin’s solution to thawing the Freeze is this:  Flex with the flux.  Move.  You are more likely to get to somewhere else pretty much intact.

ANOTHER TAKE

This YouTube video, “Numbing Pain and Joy” presents an important concept:  when you numb pain (or discomfort or fear) you numb joy.

The video was published by KirstyTV, the You-Tube channel for internationally known motivational speaker Kirsty Spraggon whose main focus in her talks and as an interview talk-show host is vulnerability and working through the issues connected with being a bonafide, genuine human being.

Here’s a poem:


PAY ATTENTION

Pay attention!

This is SERIOUS!

Here you are lollygagging down this road

on your way to your Doom.

 

You are ignoring all the smarty-pants prophets.

They tell you how foolish it is to be

refusing to be ruled by inevitability,

refusing to heed their fingers pointing at your fate,

ignoring their gloomy and direful predictions of your predicament.

 

So what happens?

 

This road of yours takes a left.

then it takes a right…

an unexpected corner – OOPS!

pothole here, mud bog there,

mist and shadows,

caves and heights.

 

You move one more jot

along your meandering trail

going hither and yon along yet another cliff edge,

then down some rocky beach,

under the pretty trees,

totally unaware of that stupendous bunch of heavy coconuts

that just misses your head because

YOU stopped to watch some hyperactive orange-and-black butterfly

zigzag-zipping along through the zinnias.

 

Ya know…

This is not so bad.

 

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Glacier” by Douglas Scortegagna via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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AN ORDINARY DIFFERENCE

AN ORDINARY DIFFERENCE

Sometimes, it really is only a little thing that can make a big difference.  A genuine smile may brighten someone’s day.  A kind word or a sincere expression of appreciation can help somebody keep on going through tough times.

“Loving-kindness” was what the Tibetan Buddhist crazy wisdom master Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche used to call it, and for him and his students it was a most pertinent practice.  It helps alleviate the suffering in the world, the old masters all say.

CLICHÉ-ALERT

And, yeah:  It’s a cliché.  But that’s the thing about clichés…often they are just old truths that we need to keep telling each other as reminders.

It’s often really, really little, this loving-kindness thing.  It’s pretty much ordinary and every-day.  Still, loving-kindness is the best way us humans have for connecting with each other.

The original story by Elizabeth Silance Ballard was first published in a 1974 issue of Home Life magazine as “Three Letters from Teddy.”  Over the next three decades it spread, even making an appearance in one of the CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL books.  It is a good story.

WHAT IF…?

Here’s another video produced by the Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas that was published on YouTube by Sarheed Jewels in 2011.  It asks:  What if you could see other people’s problems?  How would that affect you?

SEED THOUGHTS

One of the loveliest online sites about loving-kindness in action is the one put up by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK), a group of educators and community leaders led by Gary Dixon who are all dedicated to the proposition that us humans are meant to go around spreading warm fuzzies.  Their mission is to encourage you to go forth and be kind.

The RAKtivists believe that kindness is teachable and contagious.  They can point to a lot of scientific evidence that seems to validate the fact that doing kind things is actually very good for your own health.

Among the findings they highlight are the following facts:

  • Kindness produces oxytocin, the “love hormone.”  Oxytocin, in turn causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide which dilates the blood vessels.  This aids in lowering blood pressure and helps protect the heart  increasing overall heart-health.
  • Harvard Business School did a survey of happiness in 136 countries in 2010 that found that people who were generous financially were happiest overall.
  • People who volunteer tend to experience fewer ache and pains.  One study showed that people 55 and older who volunteered for two or more organizations were at 44 percent more likely to live longer.  Other studies have shown that engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins – the brain’s natural painkiller.
  • There’s a thing called the “helper’s high,” according to research from Emory University, that is a consequence of the fact that often when you’re kind to someone else your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up. Maybe that’s because acts of kindness apparently stimulate the feel-good anti-depressant serotonin, which helps to heal wounds, calm you and make you happy.

So…here’s one other benefit to the whole kindness thing:  When you’re kind to somebody else, it just naturally bounces back on you.  And isn’t that a very good thing?

i-give-you-all-i-can
“I Give You All I Can….” by Brandon Warren via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


I PROMISED ME

 

No one ever promised

That life would always be true and fair

Or that there’d be a shelter from the storm,

A warm fire waiting there,

That happy would perch on your head

And belt out one more song,

That reaching out a solid hand

Would find other fingers reaching, just as strong,

That doing good and being kind

Would bring goodness and kindness back,

That celebrating and taking joy

Can disassemble any lack.

 

No one’s ever promised that

‘Cept for some god-mad fool or three.

Now I’m sitting here remembering that

Once upon a time,

Those were all things I promised me.


Header picture credit:  “Be Kind….” by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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RADICAL GENEROSITY

RADICAL GENEROSITY

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that generosity is not a down-payment on love.  [Generosity is spill-over when you’re feeling full.]

I am reading a book, LOVE LET GO:  Radical Generosity for the Real World, by Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell.  It is a story about an amazing church congregation in Chicago, the LaSalle Street Church, who received a totally unexpected windfall:  a check for $1,530,116.78.

windfall
“Windfalls” by Rhia via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
The check represented the church’s share of proceeds from the sale of an urban property that they had bought in the 1970s with three other churches.  The land had been used for a desperately needed low-income housing project in the neighborhood, Atrium Village, which had served the purpose for more than 25 years.

The church’s heartful investment had been returned…in spades.

This 2017 YouTube video of a “100 Huntley Street” interview with pastor Laura Sumner Truax, one of the authors of the book, is a kind of a teaser for the book.

As Truax says, the church leaders made a wild, counter-intuitive move that changed the game on a clear day in September, 2014.  The leaders used ten percent of the windfall money to tithe back to the church members.  Each church member received a $500 check with the injunction to go out and do good in God’s world.

The leadership of the church also encouraged the members to participating in the effort to study and pray on how they were going to allocate the rest of the windfall funds, the “Big Money.”  More than half of the congregation spent nine months on the project.

The book tells the story of what happened and what the people involved in this exploration learned as a result.  It was and remains an ever-evolving, extraordinary process and journey, one that makes my heart smile.

a-give
“a:give” by John and Aga Brewster via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

THE GIVING CHURCH

LaSalle Street Church was built in 1886 in the near north side of Chicago by Swedish immigrants who never once worshipped in it.  The congregation had been left bankrupt by the effort of its construction.

Its history of hard luck and scarcity continued throughout the church’s long history of involvement with a community that is diverse and sometimes volatile.  One of the primary principles the church has always held to is this:  Giving is better than receiving.

They really did walk their talk even though most of the time the church was, like their neighbors, “just getting by.”

Giving didn’t change the church’s financial circumstances but it did change “the way LaSalle wore its scarcity,” as authors Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell lyrically puts it.  They did it with style and their acts of generosity were truly appreciated.

During the 1960s, when Chicago exploded in the violence and vitriol of the race riots, local youth protected the LaSalle Street Church from burning.  The angry young ones who were pressing for change remembered.  They protected the people who helped them through their hard times.

The church has always been a major light in the community.  Senior citizens who needed company and a meal, the kids looking for sanctuary and a safe place to go after school and residents who were caught up in a legal system they could not navigate all found what they needed at the church.

This video, which was put together by Faustino Productions in 2015, was published on YouTube by tinogon1942.  It shows the aftermath of the Chicago riots on the west side of Chicago after Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 as the Supreme’s “Stop In the Name of Love” plays.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Chicago officials embraced the concept of urban renewal and started creating high-density, high-rise dwellings like Cabrini-Green and relocated people from the poorer parts of town to these new developments.  The joke going ’round then among the city residents was that the program would have been more aptly named “urban removal.”

In reaction to this government program, LaSalle Street Church’s senior pastor at the time, Bill Leslie, preached a commitment to turf.  La Salle stood at the edge of communities in transition.  On one side, some of the city’s neediest residents lived.  On the other side was some of the most expensive real estate in Chicago.

Leslie thought that the church could be a meeting place where everyone was welcomed.  He and his congregation of fifty-some members believed that at the bottom of it all the church was all about all of us people being in this old mess of a world all together.

The members who were better-off materially saw themselves in their poorer neighbors’ situation.  They understood the struggles and they also believed that they needed their neighbors as much as their neighbors needed them.   They looked for a way to help.

In this they were aided by local congressman Robert L. Thompson, an African-American who was also a long-time resident of the city.  Thompson worried over the impact of urban renewal on the thousands of his constituents who were facing displacement.

When Thompson was offered a bribe of ten thousand dollars to influence the award of the rights to the land occupied by the LaSalle’s row house neighbors, he refused.  Then he called Leslie.

Somehow the congregation found what they thought could be a solution to their neighbor’s problems.  There was a plot of land for sale that sat to the west of the church, juxtaposed against the homes of high society to the east.  It was big enough and near enough for a housing development to which their neighbors could relocate and still be neighbors.

Over the next two months Leslie rallied LaSalle and several other churches to invest one thousand dollars each in a campaign to secure the land rights.  (When you consider that Leslie’s own salary hovered around three thousand dollars at the time, it was a goodly sum of money back then.)

The housing project that grew there, Atrium Village, was the first housing development in the country to be financed and constructed by state, private and church funding.  It took years for all the players to finally agree to the vision of a truly diverse project:  50 percent black and 50 percent white; 50 percent market-rate and 50 percent under-market rate rents.

The first apartment tower was dominated by a nine-story open atrium.  That atrium gave the “village” its name and it lessened a significant fear factor.  The central atrium left no dark hallways in the building.  Light flooded in.

Also, there were glass elevators that allowed light and visibility and the courtyard area around the buildings provided safe places for children to play.

Atrium Village opened to a flood of three thousand applicants.  It became a solid anchor in the community and was a testing ground for finding the best practices for community-based housing.  It was also the first of three building projects the church undertook in the neighborhood, all of which focused on building community engagement among people who were different from one another.

The other two were a building for senior housing and another for a legal-aid clinic.

Here’s a short YouTube video, a for-rent ad for Atrium Village apartments, published in 2012 by apartmenthomelivingA.

THE SALE

In the early 2000s, almost 25 years after Atrium opened its doors, La Salle got word that the primary investor in the development wanted to sell its interest.  The restrictive covenants on Atrium would soon expire without possibility of renewal.  The city was in the process of demolishing Cabrini-Green, the public-housing complex of 30-story buildings that had been a long-time neighborhood fixture.

The new model for government thinking on the public-housing problem was dubbed “scattered site” housing.  Instead of monolithic structures, the vision now was lower-density, low-rise units that served a diverse population – exactly the vision that the people who made Atrium Village happen advocated.

The times they were a-changing…again.

Even though the churches who initiated the Atrium Village project represented only a 15 percent interest in the property, as a voting bloc, they could stop the sale of the property.  Two of the partner churches faced almost certain closure by their denominations because their memberships had dwindled down to mere handfuls.

The church memberships had watched the Cabrini-Green towers come down, knowing that the retail developers were also watching it happen.  Condominiums that cost upwards of half a million dollars were being planned.

The churches, all of whom were like LaSalle and framed their ministry on being bridge churches, understood that their neighborhoods were changing.  They finally reached an agreement to sell their interest while negotiating hard for more units set aside for the working poor.

They were supported in this intention by the Chicago city tax assessor, their local alderman, and various community groups.  Any redevelopment plan would be required to have 20 percent of its units available at below-market rate.

THE REST OF THE STORY….

And so it happened:  the sale, and then the check, and then the tithe from church to its people.

You’ll have to read the book to get the rest of the story.

An interesting history of the church building and the neighborhood provides a glimpse at the background for this story.  Here’s the YouTube video, “130 Years – History of the LaSalle Street Church Sanctuary Building,” which was put together and published by the church in 2016.

Here’s a poem:


A GREAT BLESSING

A great blessing

When good people

Try to help

Correct another mistake

In a long

Line of mistakes.

 

A good feeling

When the world

Rallies ’round one

Who is hurting

One who is

Not as strong

As other ones.

 

Thank you, nakua….

Thank you, world….

Blessings and thanks.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Crater Sunrise,” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

It’s easy to stay in our comfort zone.  We’re good there.  We know where we are.  We know what we’re supposed to do about it all.

the-bell-jar
The Bell Jar by melingo wagamama via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
There are two problems with hanging in the comfort-zone, however.  Life doesn’t often let us stay there, and we don’t grow as much there.

 

POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

“Post-traumatic growth” is a term coined by Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, two of the pioneering experts on the subject.  They say PTG is the “positive change that occurs as a result of struggle with highly challenging life crises.”

In this YouTube video, History of Post Traumatic Growth, Calhoun tells a bit about how their concept of studying “growth through stress” developed.

The scientists and their teams interviewed people who had endured hardship. They wanted to know why some people grow after trauma and others don’t.   What they found surprised them.

Calhoun put together their findings in a 2006 book, HANDBOOK OF POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH: Research and Practice.

Just like the wise guys keep telling us, it seems suffering can help people transform in fundamental, positive ways.  The transformations in the people who were interviewed were more profound (and more common) than the researchers expected.

They tell us that there are five ways people can grow after a crisis:

  • Their relationships can strengthen.
  • They can discover new paths and purposes in life. Sometimes these are related to a particular survival mission.  Other times the crisis becomes the catalyst for a more general reconsideration of priorities.
  • Trauma allows them to find their inner strength.
  • Their spiritual life can deepen.
  • They can feel a renewed appreciation for life.

 

HUH?  HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?

“Deliberate rumination,”  (spending lots of time trying to make sense out of painful experiences and reflecting on how these circumstances have changed you), the psychologists say, helps to foster post-traumatic growth.

Tedeschi and Calhoun use the metaphor of an earthquake to explain how we grow in the wake of crisis.  Just as a city has certain structure before major earthquake so too do we have fundamental beliefs about our lives and the world.  Trauma shatters those assumptions.

Out of the rubble comes the opportunity to rebuild.  In the aftermath of an earthquake, cities aim to erect buildings and infrastructure that are stronger and more resilient than what now lies in ruins.

Those who are able to rebuild psychologically, spiritually and otherwise after a crisis are better equipped to deal with future adversity, and they ultimately lead more meaningful lives.

windswept-coco-palm
“Windswept Tree” by ptross via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
As Anne M. Mulcahy, the former chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corp, once advised, “When you have that window of opportunity called a crisis, move as quickly as you can, get as much done as you can.  There’s a momentum for change that’s very compelling.”

 

WHAT PTG CAN MEAN FOR YOU

Personal coach-mentor Robin Amos Kahn gave a short talk about this phenomenon which was published in this YouTube video, Post-Traumatic  Growth by OwnTheRoom in 2014.  In it she shares her personal story of personal adversity and how she grew from it.

Own The Room is an organization of skillful communicators  based in New Jersey who provide leadership training and work with corporations around the world.  They say they help “empower high performance cultures that enable people to actually have fun while doing the best work of their lives.”

 

OKAY….HOW DO I DO IT?

The following collection of six life-hacks are take-aways from these guys and others who have continued to figure out how to use the findings on post-traumatic growth and their ramifications to help other people survive and thrive after a crisis.

windswept-trees-at-slope-point
“Windswept Trees at Slope Point” by Marcus Holland-Moritz [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The ideas for these life-hacks were iterated by psychologist Stephen Joseph in his book, WHAT DOESN’T KILL US:  The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth. 

I’ve thrown in asides from psychologist Fredrike Bannink whose book, POST TRAUMATIC SUCCESS:  Positive Psychology and Solution-Focused Strategies to Help Clients Survive and Thrive, was written for other psychologists working with trauma survivors.

(Stephen Joseph spent over 20 years working with survivors of trauma and is a professor at the University of Nottingham.  Fredrike Bannink, who among other things is the Mental Health Trainer for Doctors Without Borders, is an internationally known clinical psychologist based in Amsterdam.)

TAKE STOCK

  • Figure out where you are now.
  • Acknowledgement and validation are important, the guys in lab coats say.  You have to understand and accept the changes that have happened.  You have to cop  to the fact that you are smack-dab in the middle of it all
  • F’r real, your problems don’t need to be analyzed to death. They are there; they are in your face.  See them.  Know where you’re standing.  If you can just see the challenges, you can actually face them and maybe do something about them.
  • Focus on what already works – assess your strengths, competencies and resources:  How do you cope?  How do you keep your head above water?   Do more of that.  What have you got?  Use it.

VALUE CHANGE ITSELF

You know what the best thing about change is?  It is happening all the time.  If you’re stuck in suck, it helps to remember that old and hoary reminder:  “This, too, shall pass.”

Obstructions and adversity do not go on forever.  Mostly that’s ’cause we don’t last that long.  Also, we always have the option to choose to step out of the bog our own selves.

One way to do that is to try to get past looking at just the negatives of a situation.  Check out how things may have improved as well.  Even a small change for the better counts.  Count them all.

BUILD ON HOPE

  • Learn to be hopeful about the future, these guys tell you. Look for inspirational stories about people who have overcome similar obstacles and start looking at how you, your own self, still have a future, one that can be good anyhow.
  • Focus on your personal goals. Seeing yourself as you want to be is the key to personal growth.   What are your best hopes?
  • The scientists, seekers and practitioners all say building hope and optimism is very important for transcending whatever 2 x 4 has hit you upside the head.  They are the antidotes to the hopelessness and pessimism that keep you in the muck.
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude. Yup.  Count your blessings.  They are on the other side of all the wo-wo-woes.

RE-AUTHORING

Re-write your own story.  You can do this literally by using expressive writing techniques to find new perspectives.  As Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “I am not what happened to me.  I am what I choose to become.”

So…tell the story about who you are choosing to become.  Make up your own happy endings.

After a while you’ll start to understand that it doesn’t matter who hurt you or what broke you down.  What is going to matter to you is who and what made you smile again and why.

NOTICE NEW GROWTH

  • Ask yourself: When have you felt better lately?
  • Put on your own lab coat and use “scaling questions” to assess your progress, motivations, hopes and confidence.  On a scale from 10 to 0, where would you say you are today?  How come it’s not lower?
  • Notice the progress you’ve made. Don’t discount them just because they’re teeny.  One step is still one step.
  • Call your shots – What will be the next signs of progress?
  • Celebrate success.

CONCRETE EXPRESSIONS

The scientists who study post-traumatic growth all say that if you can get through the painful process of dealing with trauma and change, you will get to the point when you will make something that is your very own unique expression of self.

It is worthwhile to remember, I think, that one old meaning of the word “suffering” is “to undergo.”  When you “suffer,” you are undergoing something.  What you’re doing is just all about going on through it.  You can choose to suffer over your suffering, or not.

Once you’ve made it to the other side, you’ll be able to make something, the guys in the lab coats say.  Maybe it’ll be a marvelous thing the world has never before seen.

 

windswept-tree-at-bow-fall
“Windswept Tree at Bow Falls, Banff, Alberta, Canada” by davebloggs007 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

FINAL THOUGHT

The poets, the artists, and the wise guys got there before the scientists again, I am thinking.

They know, those poets and artists.   Through all of the ouches and angst and all the confusion and chaos, there’s a golden thread that leads you back to your Highest Self.  And when you get there, oh…the thoughts you can think and the things you can do….

All this other stuff is about finding that thread.

 

golden-threads
“Golden Threads” by David Pilbrow via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Here’s a poem:


LOOKING FOR THE GOD THREAD

Looking for the God Thread…

Where the heck did it go?

It’s buried under all this other stuff.

Tangled up in all this blustering blow.

 

Looking for the God Thread…

Do you see a shiny fine gold wire

Wandering through this mass of

Fuzz-ball thoughts, messed-up desire?

 

Looking for the God Thread…

It’s in here, I know.

I’m picking through all these old bits,

Growling ’cause the going’s so slow.

 

Looking for the God Thread…

Where the heck can it be?

It’s all my fault!  I got distracted, a bit refracted,

Now that God Thread’s LOST somewhere in me.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Windswept” by Maciej via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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